Aragami is a third person stealth game that was released by Lince Works back in 2016. The Aragami: Shadow Edition is a repackaging of the base game along with the recently released Nightfall expansion, which is a prequel to the original story chapters. This our Aragami: Shadow Edition review for PC.
The pretence of Aragami is that you, the player, act as an “Aragami” which is a “vengeful spirit summoned through an ancient ritual”. You are summoned by a girl, Yamiko, that is being held captive by a rival clan. Initially, you are guided by her astral projection represented as a “wisp”. Your ultimate goal in the base story is to rescue her and enact vengeance against a clan called “Kaiho”.
The game is voice acted, sort of. Clan thugs speak in Japanese and conversations between you and the wispy Yamiko are in “astral speak” which adds to the spiritual ambience but is unintelligible, think eery voices played backwards type of thing. As a consequence, all dialogue text is displayed on the screen. As you make your way through a zone the henchmen do have some dialogue, some of it perhaps even giving clues, but I was so focused on who was where that I typically didn’t read all the text that flew by.
Upon starting a new game there is no character creation, you can immediately choose from a few stock “skins” (i.e. costumes) for your ninja avatar. There is currently four stock, or free, skins for your avatar with nine more currently available as a free download from Steam. These additional nine are locked until certain criteria / in-game objectives have been met, e.g. “Complete all chapters on Hard Difficulty”. You can also choose one of three default difficulty settings. Additionally, each chapter allows you to override the original difficulty selected.
You are immediately placed into the game, meet Yamiko who runs you through some tutorial-like levels that are woven into the opening moments of the story quite nicely. You learn you can run, crouch, port to ledges, port across ravines and through loosely defined doors and more. You’re introduced to “Shadow Essence” which allows you do things like Shadow Leap. Standing in the shadows replenishes that essence of which your cape’s appearance acts as your “shadow essence meter”. All “Gremlins” references aside, standing in bright light too long drains your shadow essence.
The game’s graphics are outright gorgeous with a cool anime/comic book art style. There are cutscenes that play out as motion comics which are also eye candy. The way the developers use your avatar to display status is brilliant. When you’re in a shadow your costume is all black and white accent (i.e. full shadow essence) step into the light and you’re back to your natural look. As you re-enter the shadows your costume’s “shadow essence gauge” fills going from red accents back to white. Even your cape has a method to display how many special moves you have left.
The game is playable via a standard WASD keyboard configuration but also supports a PC gamepad. Initially, the crouch key is setup as the “Ctrl” key. Since stealth is an important factor in the game via crouching and the move forward key is the standard “W” key I found it more comfortable to remap the crouch function to the Tab key. This still allowed me to use my left thumb to hit the Spacebar for that quality “Stealth Kill”. Thankfully, the crouch key can also be set up as a toggle through the Options screen. I didn’t make this discovery until a few chapters in and long sessions of pressing the Tab key.
The base game is composed of thirteen chapters where each chapter has multiple zones. During each stage, you’re given a goal or typically goals. For example, make your way across the graveyard, find the talisman, make your exit. All of this is done of course across areas filled with clan henchman that walk to and fro with set patterns and synchronized rhythms. After you get through a multi-level chapter you’re graded by the game, e.g. “A”, “B”, “C”, etc., on how you got through the chapter. You’re graded on statistics like time through, the number of hostiles killed, corpses found, collectibles (i.e. scrolls) found. You’re also awarded “seals” for chapter achievements like “No enemies killed”. This is where the fun comes in, as well as the completionist’s “nightmare”. The game grades you on playing through the chapter in a combination of one or more many different ways but also grades high on playing one way through and sticking to your guns. This means the grading system takes into account the many different ways to play even if they are contradictory. For example, you can’t score 100% on “killing all enemies” and still score 100% on “no enemies killed”. This is where the aforementioned “completionist’s nightmare” comes in back when that grade screen comes up you’re going to have zeros in multiple ratings.
The game’s enemy AI is well done also. If you’re detected the AI does a nice job of having everyone move about all over the area looking for you. If you do get detected you need to decide how to handle it as one slash or shot or arrow from a henchman takes you back to the beginning of that zone. The aforementioned, scrolls you pick-up throughout a chapter and they allow you to upgrade your skills, i.e. this game has a form of character progression. You can skill up your shadow skills, defensive techniques or offensive techniques. Thankfully, making your way through the chapters is not too dependent on these progression skills because if you choose to play stealth and get through a stage fairly quickly you’ll probably not find all the scrolls you’re first time through.
This edition also comes with the latest expansion, Nightfall, which adds four more story chapters and acts as a prequel to the base Aragami game. The expansion also allows you to play as either one of two Shadow Assassins, Hyo and Shinobu, giving players a male / female choice. Also one of the biggest features of the expansion is co-op play where you and friend can play through together, one as Hyo and one as Shinobu.
Also noteworthy is the fact that the game has a level editor available on Steam as well. Currently, there is over 1,000 user made “missions” available on Steam Workshop to play through. This, of course, lends itself to a load of replayability.